Players and officials condemn Peer's Dubai ban
SAN JOSE, California |
SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Players and officials have criticised the United Arab Emirates for denying top Israeli player Shahar Peer an entry visa at the weekend.
Peer had been expected to compete at this week's Dubai Championships but the future of the $2 million tournament remains uncertain after the women's world number 45 was stopped from entering the country.
As a result an ATP official said the men's tour would also review the status of its Dubai tournament which is due to begin next Monday.
"We are very disappointed to hear about the decision with Shahar Peer and we are looking at it and are very concerned," ATP board of directors member Justin Gimelstob told Reuters at the San Jose Open.
"We believe very strongly that players of all religions, ethnicities and nationalities be allowed to play. We discussed that with Dubai and are adamant all players get access to the tournament."
The situation could be replicated next week since Israel's doubles specialists, Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, told reporters they would like to play in Dubai.
"It's something we want to do," Ram said.
Like most Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state and Israeli citizens are routinely denied entry.
Like the WTA, ATP rules state tournaments cannot discriminate against players of any nationality, ethnicity or religion, and if they do, they could lose their sanction.
Gimelstob said the ATP would stand behind its players.
"If Andy Ram were not to get his visa that would be very troubling," Gimelstob said. "It's a clear-cut rule that everyone should be allowed to play tour events.
"We are on top of it and are trying to sort out the information."
American Mardy Fish, beaten in the San Jose final by Czech Radek Stepanek on Sunday, said the tours should take a stand.
"That seems pretty crazy," Fish said of the Peer decision. "That seems insane. I think the WTA and the tours should step in and do something."
International Tennis Federation (ITF) president Francesco Ricci Bitti condemned the stance taken by the UAE.
"We will be in contact with the UAE Tennis Association to remind them the ITF constitution does not permit discrimination on any grounds," Ricci Bitti said.
"The ITF believes sport should not be used as a political tool but rather as a unifying element between athletes and nations."
The three-week Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, which killed 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis, caused deep anger around the Arab and Muslim worlds. It ended in January.
Danish player Caroline Wozniacki, top seed in this week's WTA tournament in Memphis, told Reuters by telephone that sport and politics should not be linked.
"She (Peer) is a tennis player not a politician and she should be allowed to play," said Wozniacki.
"She wanted to go there as a tennis player. People should be allowed to play and it shouldn't be a problem but that's the way the world is."
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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